LIVELIHOODS

~ kittykittyhunter ~


It was during one of those days when Miss Partridge (whose face was always slightly rosy) realised that she hadn't planned the hour efficiently: the kids had run out of work. The woman pursed her lips and patted her hair and clicked her tongue, and in an effort to stop the class from chattering to one another and descending into their usual brawls, she ordered, "Tell me what you want to be when you grow up."

Dylan scratched his scalp and said that he wanted to be one of those kids who were paid to test video games, to which Jamie drawled, "She said when you grow up, stupid." Jamie had to stand outside for ten minutes because he said the word 'stupid' – even though Miss Partridge privately believed that Jamie's logic had been sound. Then Ellen mentioned wanting to be an engineer, which made sense, since she made the best Science Fair projects; her peers nodded and grinned.

Priscilla, who had a round face, thick glasses and fat hands, wanted to be a model. Some of the kids fell into a stunned silence while the others mostly sniggered. Priscilla shrugged, saying that she would one day be a butterfly.

The laughers had to apologise.

Maybe Miss Partridge wasn't a teacher with a lot of common sense, or maybe she was just too tired to use her brain properly. Another educator would have changed tack, pulling out a storybook. But Miss Partridge went ahead and asked a scrawny boy with shiny black hair, "What about you?"

And Matt McGinnis said, "I want to be Batman."

Chaos. One kid yelled out that Matt wasn't good enough to be Batman, that he, Johnny Cardon, the tallest in the whole grade, was going to be Batman. Lucy sniffed and said that she would very well like to be Batgirl. Then Timmy Hughes waved a hand and announced, "I heard that Batman took out that creepy Raiders' Crew."

"Seriously? Those guys robbed my uncle!"

"He's the best," sighed Krista, and Miss Partridge decided that enough was enough.

"Class, start packing up your belongings – the bell will ring soon." She frowned at Matt. "And may I suggest that you look into other interests. I doubt Batman will knock on your front door any time soon."

She probably said it because she was so tired, or because she was so hungry. She didn't notice, as she yawned and checked her watch, that Matt McGinnis' lower lip trembled, and that he left the room quite quickly.

A shock was waiting for Matt outside. Terry was leaning against the jungle gym, arms folded. "Hey twip."

"What are you doing here?"

Terry rolled his eyes. "Mom asked me to pick you up." He stuck his hands in his pockets. Then he turned and started to walk away. "Hurry up. I'm hungry."

Matt followed his older brother's shadow, glaring at Terry's broad shoulders. Once or twice Terry came to an abrupt halt, for which Matt was grateful – it gave him a chance to catch up with Terry's ridiculously long strides.

It was only when they were home and Matt was hanging up his jacket that Terry spoke. "What's up? Usually you never stop talking."

"Nothing's bothering me," Matt said. "I'm just thinking about something, that's all."

"Like what?" Terry opened a cupboard door, grabbed a giant bag of chips and threw himself onto the couch. Matt stared, aghast – Mom would be home soon and would want to put dinner on the table; was Terry insane? "Go on, hit me."

Matt almost took the invitation literally, but he knew that Terry was tough, so the boy decided against it. He sat down on the couch and reached for the chips, which Terry handed over without a fight. "We started talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up," Matt started crunching the potato chip – it was wonderfully cheesy. "I said I wanted to be Batman."

"Hah." Terry shook his head. "It isn't all it's cracked up to be."

"Are you kidding? It'd be amazing!" Matt leapt to his feet, spreading his arms. "Fighting crime, using gadgets, flying around at night and best of all –" his eyes glazed over, "the suit."

There was a pause. Terry reached into the bag and brought out a fistful of potato chips. "Yeah," he mused. "I guess being Batman does have its perks."

Matt lowered his arms. "My teacher basically said that I'd never be Batman."

"You?" Terry tilted his head to one side and surveyed Matt critically. "You never know," said the older boy. "You might have it in you."

It was one of those rare moments when Terry and Matt both smiled.